She shuffled through the crowd until she was inside the packed subway car, waiting for the next stop only moments away when she would be able to exit once more. She was already trying to calculate what time she’d get home from her current location and listing off everything she needed to do for work, even though she was technically “off the clock,” as if that was ever true.
She retrieved the incessantly buzzing phone from her jacket pocket the moment her arm was liberated from being compressed against her body in the tightly packed car. Even as she skimmed the texts from family or friends trying to snag her attention, emails continued to chime in with the latest updates on the projects that had absorbed her with their looming deadlines.
Looking up as she felt the train slow, she waited for the doors to open so that she could leave behind the overcrowded car and the noxious fugue it contained.
Metal screeched and the volume of the voices turned up exponentially as the doors slid open. She darted through and made her purposeful way towards the stairs, careful to navigate the throng moving about the dimly lit station as she fiddled with her phone.
She was absorbed in the dual tasks of texting while traversing the swarming crowd when she heard a high pitched noise that first sounded so much like a scream that it arrested her from her screen and she darted glances around for the source.
Even as she was about to start the frantic search, two realizations caught up with her; the first was that no one else was reacting, the second was that it was not a scream she’d heart, but a note. Against the back wall of the weakly lit station, with a foot of space before him for his open case, stood a man with violin at the ready, subtly nodding his head as if in time to whatever it was he could hear.
Though her phone continued to vibrate and chime in her hand, she could not take her gaze from one of the last things she expected to see that day, if ever. As the subways sounds started to filter back in, she almost turned and broke the spell, intending to continue on her industrious way, until the man raised his bow.
Without thought, as if being drawn forward by a magnet she had not known rested within her heart, she moved closer to the musician as he began to play.
Never had she heard such music before; it stole her breath so that it could give life to the strings like oxygen fuels the flame. She closed her eyes so that there was only the music…
With passionate strokes and commanding notes the violin wove a tale of fiery spirit becoming a raging storm; quick and fast with growing speed, her heart raced with the pace. It grew until, with a sudden screech of the strings, and skip of her heart, the story changed.
Plaintive notes reached out through the spaces and plucked at heart strings and fed souls that knew the song of sorrow. She felt her heart wilt with the weeping strings, the song weaving its way down like leaves on gentle breezes, until the notes tapered off into silence…
For a moment, the enchantment was broken. In the pause between the subtle shift from one musical masterpiece to another, she realized her cheeks had cool, wet streaks trailing down them while she stood frozen in place. She glanced around at the milling people, oblivious to the magic being cast around them.
The violinist continued to play, and though she wasn’t drowning in the music as she had been before, she was acutely aware of the beauty bouncing off the subway walls as it was ignored by everyone around her.
The jostling of the crowd around her finally broke through the powerful haze the music had created of her senses, but it left her no less confused at the utter lack of acknowledgement of the exquisite soundtrack taking over the usual abrasive subway sounds. It pained her to watch so many stream by without even a pause; it was like they’d all become deaf to beauty.
Her phone continued to buzz and chime and occasionally someone bumped her shoulder or cursed at her as they tried to avoid her stationary stance in the moving path. It was all suddenly too much to bare; the cold concrete and metal, the constant churning sea of people too busy to bother with beauty, the suffocating business demands, all suddenly too constraining to the woman who had tasted freedom.
She gently moved her way to the wall next to the musician, leaning her back against it as she closed her eyes, waiting for his music to envelope her like warm blankets on wintry nights. She didn’t see him smile as he turned towards her instead of the faceless crowd and coaxed notes from his instrument and wove them together, just for her.
He serenaded her in the subway station, in the midst of thousands of ever changing faces. Threading together a series of notes crafted from something as captivating as starlight, he played just for her, because she was listening.